Written May 2006
I read today in The Sunday Times that midwives reckon women in labour get too much pain relief.
I reckon that the midwives in question are sadistic, childless wagons.
I'll tell you one thing for free (because I don't get paid to blog): labour is horrendous. At least, it was for me. I was twenty years old, with a habit of fainting every time I needed a blood test. I was at the hospital less than ten minutes and I was screaming ‘Stick that fucking needle in my spine and do it NOW!’
Okay, so that was a wee bit of hyperbole there. I did plan on going as long as I could without getting an epidural. Two things changed my mind. One of them was the horror of desperately sucking why-the-fuck-isn't-this-shite-working gas while a grimacing midwife was up to her elbows in me, fiddling about with a crochet needle. The other was the midwife saying, on hearing of my painkiller plan, ‘I wouldn't bother, if I were you. This baby has a very big head.’
Allow me a moment of seriousness here. The epidural was a blessing. Once it kicked in, I was able to sleep until it was time to push (45 minutes of pain in a 16 hour labour MY ARSE. Apparently that's the ‘norm’. I had contractions every two minutes when the baby was still sleeping up around my ears). Thus I was rested. The baby was enormous - she came out at a whopping 9lbs 11oz, about the size of an American burger. Had I not had the epidural, I wouldn't have been able to push for 3 HOURS. Yes, 3 hours. They were getting ready to cut me open when she finally decided to slither out. And when I say cut me open, I mean by C-section. I'd already had the episiotomy. If you don't know what an episiotomy is . . can I swap places with you?
In short, the epidural afforded me the chance to have a natural birth for the babbie.
Childbirth, at least in the cases of difficult labour, is extremely unpleasant. That's not to say that it's not also wonderful. Things can be unpleasant and wonderful at the same time; ask any masochist. It just wasn't wonderful for me. Forceps, ventouse, vomit, a completely inedible placenta and a week of blood transfusions later, I was able to leave hospital, although I didn't sit down for a good month afterwards.
You get articles featuring quotes from women (and Tom Cruise) on how special and spiritual their labours were. Not one of these quotes could have been from women I know. Maybe it's a thing in the Arse End Of Ireland, the ‘my labour was worse than yours’ conversation. Get a couple of mothers together and they'll start; the martyrdom of the Irishus Mammius roots early.
‘I was sixteen hours in labour.’
‘Really? I was three days.’
‘Did I say sixteen hours? I mean sixteen months. It was awful. I broke my husbands hand.’
‘I broke both of my husband's hands. Ground his bones, I did.’
‘My fella had to get his hand amputated. And I lost four pints of blood.’
‘Lucky you. I had to have a Keith Richards. Plus five of those pints were the wrong kind, so they had to start all over again. And then my episiotomy ripped open my aaaaa-nus.’
‘Ah. You had a good doctor so. Coz my episiotomy had to go right up my back. Half my spine fell out.’
‘Don't talk to me about spines. They couldn't get the epidural in. And when they did it didn't work.’
‘My epidural numbed my arms instead, that's how wrong it went for me.’
‘Sure, don't I know it. I'm paralysed from the waist down after it. In a wheelchair, I am.’
‘The next one will be easy, so.’